What Lies Beneath - Once the Smoke Clears Wildfire Victims are Left with Contaminated Properties
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Air Quality Warnings Issued
California state officials have issued air quality warnings to affected populations in and around Los Angeles in response to the Woolsey and Hill fires. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) smoke and residue from wildfires can cause severe respiratory issues and sinus infection-like symptoms, including chest pain, a fast heartbeat, wheezing and fatigue. Some people may even experience illnesses like bronchitis from the fine particles. Exposure presents heightened concerns for the elderly, pregnant women, children and those with chronic heart and lung diseases.
Children typically breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults, and therefore may experience more severe symptoms. Since children’s airways are still developing, they are also more vulnerable to lasting damage. While government agencies provide daily air quality reports to show your outdoor exposure, in order to understand your risks indoors, we offer independent testing by our trained environmental experts to evaluate your entire property.
How serious is wildfire smoke damage?
Smoke is made up of microscopic particles, liquids and gaseous compounds that may not be visible to the naked eye. Wildfires produce tons of particulate matter per minute that seeps into structures - even those with closed windows and doors. Many environmental experts consider particle pollution as one of the single greatest threats to human health. Historically, the number of particulate matter related deaths are reported to be comparable to those caused by traffic accidents!
While there is a lower risk of long-term effects of wildfire smoke exposure for healthy individuals, the danger for children is higher. Pediatric pulmonologists at Children's Hospital Colorado's Breathing Institute recommend changing your clothes after being outside, rinsing irritated eyes and drinking fluids to keep from being dehydrated. Parents should seek emergency care for children who experience continued difficulty breathing or a change in their level of consciousness.
Legal Issues After the Fire
Beyond the health risks described above, smoke and fire residue can cause liability issues for business owners, building owners, and managers, ranging from employee and tenant illness to decreased productivity and loss-of-use. To ensure the health and safety of employees and tenants, we offer complete, affordable, environmental and air quality testing solutions, including detailed remediation plans to help your restoration teams address any problems and safeguard your occupants’ health.
Managing Indoor Air Quality
To avoid smoke exposure, the CDC advises to keep your windows and doors closed. You may continue to run your A/C, but close the fresh-air intake to prevent poor air from entering and make sure the filter is clean. Vacuuming can circulate bad air particles so avoid use until your property has been mitigated. You should also temporarily discontinue using the fireplace, gas stoves, candles and smoking.
Don’t wear a dust mask! Many people do not realize that this specific mask type will not protect your lungs from smoke inhalation, actually trapping large particles. If you want to purchase a mask, the CDC offers information on the use of various mask types, depending on your exposure.
When is the Air Safe?
Wildfire smoke can persist for days or even months, depending on the extent of the wildfire. Even if you no longer smell smoke or if the air outside or in your home looks clear, it is likely not free of harmful microscopic particles, especially after prolonged wildfires. Studies have recently shown that smoke from these recent California fires has been detected as far away as New York, traveling over 3000 miles!
Dangerous levels of carcinogens, cyanide and other harmful toxins can settle deep into structures, contaminating homes, schools, daycare centers, churches, shopping centers, hospitals and all buildings exposed to the wind-driven smoke and ash. These toxic particles can be found settling in landscaping, running through rain gutters, buried in carpets and gathering on bookshelves. We often find burnt embers on the roof, ash in the attics, siding panels, indoor and outdoor insulation, ventilation systems, heating and air-conditioning units, electronics, appliances, mattresses, pillows, couches and even in clothing.
Accessibility & Affordability of Services
Environmental Consultants specializes in resolving all environmental and indoor air quality challenges, performing onsite inspections to investigate myriad sources of property contamination. We adhere to the highest industry standards and EPA-prescribed protocols, performing a series of scientific tests to determine the cause or causes of the problems.
We work only with certified laboratories to analyze our samples. We then leverage the test results, developing a detailed report that documents the contaminates present and any mitigating factors. Finally, we provide detailed remediation plans to remove the hazards, outlining specific recommendations for preventative operations and maintenance programs to sustain air quality.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maintains specific guidelines for smoke and fire remediation, including outdoor pressure washing, laundering and indoor contents cleaning. Decontaminating an area that has been exposed to particulate matter may also include removing and replacing furniture, insulation, carpeting and filters. In some cases, experts must even demolish all or parts of structures, including waste removal and construction. It is imperative that the clean-up process take place as soon as possible to avoid further contamination by particulate matter.
Certified On-Site Testing & Consulting
Because every situation is unique, we offer customized solutions for each client, based on your specific challenges, goals and budget. Our licensed experts are all certified by a variety of federal and state agencies, meet ing and/or exceeding government requirements and protocol guidelines for testing and reporting. We can also provide expert witness services for legal matters related to indoor air quality issues.
If your property has been impacted by California wildfires, call us first before hiring a remediation contractor. We frequently identify critical issues missed by construction teams and even highly-experienced mitigators. By starting with an environmental report and remediation protocol, you can help ensure that all contaminants are safely removed from your property, empowering your preferred contractors to properly perform remediation services.
We serve commercial, industrial and residential property owners, facilities managers, and multi-family residential property managers across the nation, specializing in post-disaster response. While our services are sometimes covered by insurance policies with no out of pocket costs to the policy holder, we always provide fair up-front estimates, working within your budget to address critical needs.
We are also available to immediately answer any of your questions 24/7 at (800) 554-9065. You can also email us firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to serving you!